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"Quartet": The Kindler, Gentler Aging Movie 

Wednesday, Jan 23 2013

For Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut, Ronald Harwood adapts his own play about an English retirement home for esteemed musicians. The resulting quasi-farce gathers Billy Connolly, Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins, and Maggie Smith in a mellow ensemble display of good acting and deconstructed diva-ego. A certain Hoffmanesque warmth and wiliness permeates the proceedings, and a sentimental affinity for the performer's life, including the intangibles of grudging backstage whisper-gossip, brokenhearted reminiscences, and lamented lost minds and loves. There's also a brief and surprisingly unembarrassing multigenerational dialogue on the common ground between opera and rap. More a comfort than a challenge, the movie has a sort of raggedness that might require some acclimation but also helps offset the canned quality of its getting-the-band-back-together scenario, a tense reunion for the home's annual Verdi-venerating revue. The cast is rounded out by Michael Gambon as a pompous choirmaster and Sheridan Smith as a tolerant staff doctor, to whom Harwood and Hoffman's all-inclusive fondness very easily extends. If you're wanting an old-folks film and worried that Amour looks too posh or too heavy, this might be the one to catch instead.

About The Author

Jonathan Kiefer

SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.


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